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A Popular CRM Gets an Upgrade

Redtail attempts to leap ahead of the competition.

Bill Winterberg, 05/12/2011

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One core technology of most financial advisory practices is CRM software. CRM is used to store important client information such as contact details, relationship status, activity history, and future opportunities. Most CRMs also offer the ability to define workflow processes to establish standards for back office procedures and client service activities.

A CRM that has quickly grown in popularity with financial advisors is Redtail, created by Gold River, Calif.-based Redtail Technology. Redtail is a web-based CRM that, according to Redtail President Brian McLaughlin, is now in use by more than 7,000 offices every day representing more than 30,000 users.

Over the last 12 months, Redtail product developers and engineers have been working hard to prepare a new version of its CRM, code-named Project Leapfrog, scheduled for official release in January 2012. A beta version of Project Leapfrog has been available to Redtail users since last year, and just recently the company upgraded the program's status to release candidate in advance of the official release. I had the opportunity to spend a day at a recent Redtail University event to evaluate Project Leapfrog and explore the new features and design of the popular CRM.
Redtail's Success
Redtail first released its web-based CRM, now referred to as Redtail Classic, to financial advisors in 2003. At the time, it was among the first advisor-specific CRMs to be entirely web-based and not require any software installation to a local computer. The timing of Redtail's release was fortuitous, as access to broadband Internet connections was on the rise, allowing advisors to implement virtual offices and not maintain any hardware in order to run their business applications.

By 2010, Redtail use had grown significantly. According to the 2010 Financial Planning Magazine Technology Survey, 23% of over 3,100 advisors surveyed responded that they use Redtail, placing it in the top spot among all CRMs. Microsoft Outlook also received 23% of advisor responses, but the e-mail management tool lacks many of the essential features present in CRM software. According to McLaughlin, Redtail's month-to-month growth in new users averages 20% as a result of its relationships with broker-dealers, integrations with third-party providers, and custodial partnerships.

Leaping Ahead
Project Leapfrog is a completely new rewrite of the design and layout of Redtail Classic. The first thing users will notice is the increased speed of the new system. Pages now support dynamic updates of information in real time, requiring fewer full-page refreshes that previously slowed down performance.

Navigation to frequently accessed pages has also been simplified, so fewer mouse clicks are needed to drill down to view specific data. The traditional left-hand navigation menu of Redtail Classic has been replaced by navigation bars at both the top and bottom of the browser window. The change results in a much more effective use of on-screen real estate used to display selected information.

The top navigation bar is used to access the CRM dashboard, calendar, contacts, reports, resources, tools, and account management functions. To the right of the navigation bar is a search field to quickly look up contact records by name. The bottom navigation bar provides one-click access to the CRM's home page, a list of most recently viewed contacts, saved searches called QuickLists, and Internet bookmarks called WebLinks. In addition, the right-hand portion of the bar shows the number of current alerts for upcoming activities, integrations that Redtail supports with other partner companies, and a "What's New" item listing important information regarding CRM program updates.

Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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